Letter: Let’s work together to preserve North Star Preserve
As longtime residents east of Aspen in the North Star area, we have witnessed significant changes in the use of the Roaring Fork River. What was once a peaceful waterway is now the conduit for hundreds of floaters who come through daily on various crafts: paddle boards, canoes, flimsy rafts, inner tubes and even an occasional pool toy. Coolers sometimes have their own floating device. This is interesting because the open-container law only applies to people who occupy navigable crafts, which does not include inner tubes.
When sitting in a stationary position, like on our porch, the impact of floaters becomes vividly clear. The cacophony builds throughout the day and hits a crescendo around 2 in the afternoon. Often, we hear revellers at the put-in, long before we see them. Yells fill the air fueled by shock when the bikini or shorts-clad adventurers meet the frigid water. This may be accentuated by blustery curse words sometimes repeated ad nauseum. Powerful speakers frequently blast music, accentuating the party atmosphere..
Occasionally, the yelling goes up in pitch indicating alarm and possible danger. Yesterday, I heard the screams of an infant that pulled both my husband and I from the house. We never saw the outcome, but heard over the next 20 minutes or so the mother of this child trying to recuperate from a folly upriver.
Last week, during peak runoff, we saw a paddle board float down the river without an occupant. I recognized this paddle board as being similar to those rented from the shop next to City Market. We heard panicked yells as a teenage girl floated down and grabbed on to some willows. The river was cold and moving fast. My husband fished her out of the swift current as another paddle board floated by. The young woman eventually reunited with her group.
The parade is sure to continue every day all summer.
It is not only the local residents that experience this impact, but wildlife including deer, elk, bears, herons and, most recently, a moose. Judging from public comments to a survey and reading articles in the paper, it seems that authorities are befuddled regarding how to address this somewhat complex problem.
What I suggest is taking collective responsibility along with government agencies. There are hundreds of people on the river every day and the impacts are inevitable, but I am hoping, as a community, that we will continue to come together and help protect this unique place.
Floaters should be prepared for the dangers and cold temperatures.
Conversations should take place at a normal volume, and even lower when passing the heron rookery.
Boom boxes should be kept at home.
Trained dogs should stay on the floating craft, otherwise they should be left at home.
Floaters should stay on the water.
Trash and recyclables should be taken home.
By being educated about the inherent dangers and impacts of river users, we may be able to keep North Star Preserve preserved.